Every time it snows I find myself having the inner excitement of a child. I know, I know. Some of you are more like an angst teenager and wish you could hibernate for the next four months. But most of us would agree (whether we like winter or not) that there is great beauty in the white stuff that twinkles like tinsel on a Christmas tree. There’s something mesmerizing about the storehouses of snow and how billions of tiny flakes fall and collect into these massive blankets on the ground.
The winter season, though cold, somehow teaches us the warmth of hope and promise and we like to talk about that kind of stuff. The happy-beautiful stuff. But what we don’t like to talk about are the ugly things. The things that remind us life isn’t always perfect, we don’t have everything together and parts of us are just a little bit broken and less shiny.
I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Netherlands as well as a part of France last year and my soul was deeply challenged by what I saw, what I heard and what I felt. I saw families committed to one another. I heard them say I love you and I felt hopeful. I saw hundreds of paintings that artists spent their entire lives working on. I heard their stories and I felt inspired. I saw insanely beautiful buildings, some of which looked like castles and I heard their histories and felt so small. I saw many breathtaking things, things that in the moment all you can do is be still, look and listen. And I’d love to tell you more about those things because we all want to talk about those things, but I want to tell you about the things I saw and heard and felt that were not as pretty. The things people didn’t buy a ticket to see.
I saw homeless people begging for money and walked by them as they used the streets as their bathroom. I saw people sitting alone in coffee shops with their heads hung low as couples walked by hand in hand. I saw tired moms who just wanted a moment to breathe in and be, rather than hold their breath and keep doing. I saw a child in tears because their parent wouldn’t put down the phone and look at the drawing they just did. I saw people sitting on the metro with holes in their shirts and in their shoes. I saw the dirty and the pain and the broken. I heard the noises of time, people rushing to get to the next place and other people left behind feeling that their not worth anyones time. I felt the dirty and the pain and the broken and it stirred something so deep within me.
And I thought, “How can this world be so beautiful and yet so ugly?”
One afternoon we were driving to a birthday party and passed a part of Klundert (the little town we stayed in in the Netherlands) that everyone jokes is the “ugly” part of town because it’s the factory part of town. You can see the large industrial buildings, the smoke, the trucks and the storage units. Compared to every other part of Klundert during the day, I admit, it’s not much to look at. But as we drove by that same part of town late that same night, it looked like a completely different place. The factories were lit up by its office lights which made the site look like it had just been decorated for Christmas. I found it strangely beautiful.
And the stirring within my being continued because somehow beauty poured through the ugly. An invisible wonder made visible. And I felt God speak in that moment and say, “That’s because even the ugly things can be beautiful.”
I work full time as a Creative Arts Pastor in a church. I meet a lot of people and I hear their stories. Some of them make my heart smile and some of them make my heart break. There is so much dirt and pain and ugly in the world. There are so many people who have no idea who Jesus is let alone what having Him in their life can do. There are so many people who only see the surface level of their life that they miss the deeper parts. They miss the factory moments. The moments when God whispers, “You may not see it this afternoon, but wait until the sun goes down and the stars come out. I’m about to do a new thing.”
And as I write this my faith is moved to not settle. It’s moved to stand firm. To stand holy. To stand true to what it is that we as believers in Jesus Christ are called to do. I am moved to make visible the invisible wonder of the Father. Because I believe our calling isn’t just to see the beautiful, it’s to see the ugly and acknowledge that only in Christ can those things be made whole and holy.
So to you who can’t look at yourself in the mirror. To you who goes to bed at night thinking you are the worst parent in the world. To you sitting alone in a coffee shop wondering if you’ll ever get to hold someones hand. To you who is walking the streets wondering how on earth you got there. To you who puts on a suit and goes to work everyday wondering why you even bother. To you who gave your child away or to you who was a child given away. To you who thinks the world would be better off without you. To you who thinks all you are is ugly and broken and done.
Please. Please. Please.
Do not believe the lies of a broken world.
Reach deeper. Seek further.
In Jesus, there is hope.
Just because a part of you isn’t the best of you, that doesn’t mean you are trash. That doesn’t mean you get to hide away from the rest of the world. The rest of the world needs you. Because without the hard stuff, we wouldn’t know what it is to be still before God. Without the pain, we wouldn’t know what it is to be healed in Jesus’ name. And without the ugly, we wouldn’t know what true beauty is.
And we all want to talk about the beautiful things. Like the Eiffel Tower, the Dutch windmills, the Mona Lisa, and the gift of living whole and free in Jesus’ name. But hundreds of people had to build those things from rubble and artists faced critiques because their methods were different and not what the politicians wanted and Jesus died a brutal death so we could live. Yet now, if you visit any of those buildings or masterpieces or churches, you’ll find hundreds of people gathering around to admire the beauty, many without realizing they’re admiring the ugly too. And to me, that is wildly breathtaking.